The Good, The Bad, The Surprising in the County Executive Race

When pointing to the successes of their respective track records, County Executive Rob Astorino and his Democrat challenger Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, the incumbent’s answers tend to be short and to the point, and his opponent’s lengthier and more complex.

Published November 5, 2013 1:08 AM
4 min read

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When pointing to the successes of their respective track records, County Executive Rob Astorino and his Democrat challenger Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, the incumbent’s answers tend to be short and to the point, and his opponent’s lengthier and more complex.

When pointing to the successes of their respective track records, County Executive Rob Astorino and his Democrat challenger Noam Bramson, Mayor of New Rochelle, the incumbent’s answers tend to be short and to the point, and his opponent’s lengthier and more complex.

 

In the first part of our interview with the candidates, published in late September, we focused on state reforms, taxes, labor agreements, jobs, and long-range planning. We also gave the candidates the opportunity to talk about their biggest successes and the cornerstones of their campaigns. Both are smart, hard working, and politically ambitious. They inspire as much fierce loyalty, as they do strong dislike.

 

In debates and political advertising, Bramson charges Astorino with not doing enough creative thinking and making unnecessary job and service cuts. The County Executive points to the fact that he has not raised taxes since taking office in January 2010 and that his opponent cut essential jobs in New Rochelle — police officers and firefighters — and raised property taxes by 100% since taking office.

 

Bramson has been Mayor of New Rochelle since 2006, when he was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of Tim Idoni. He was elected to a full four-year term in 2007 and won reelection in 2011. Before becoming Mayor, Bramson was a New Rochelle City Councilman for ten years.

 

Astorino was elected as a Town Councilman in Mount Pleasant in 1991 and won reelection in 1995 and 1999. In 1996, County Executive Andrew O’Rourke appointed him to the Westchester County Board of Ethics, and he was reappointed by O’Rourke’s successor, Andy Spano, in 1999. After serving one term on the County Board of Legislators, Astorino ran against Spano and lost by 30,000 votes in 2005. Four years later, Astorino beat him by a large margin.

 

Among his accomplishments as New Rochelle Mayor, Bramson includes “a successful development strategy to responsible budgeting.” He says he is particularly proud of New Rochelle’s Sustainability Plan, GreeNR, which is helping to guide specific municipal actions related to energy conservation, environmental protection, smart growth, economic development, and public health. “Drafting the plan required a year of effort and consultation that brought together a wide-ranging committee of experts and stakeholders. GreeNR has since won awards at both the state and regional level. The document itself is a great product, but it’s the positive changes it has helped and will help facilitate in our community that constitute the real success.”

 

Astorino says he started off with a plan and has stuck to it: “Protect taxes, preserve services, and promote economic growth.” He adds, “I’ve also made communities safer. After the Newtown tragedy, there was a rush by many politicians to make statements and form large committees. We took our time and got law enforcement officers and school administrators working together in the same room on everything from security to poor school attendance to ridding hot spots of gangs.” He notes that Westchester has the lowest unemployment in New York State and that of the 27,000 new jobs in the County since 2010, 7,000 of them are directly attributable to County Government.

 

On the subject of union contracts, Bramson says, “I’ve told my friends in labor that there has to be a change. But we need to encourage a culture and climate of respect and good faith. The current climate suggests to me that the administration wanted a breakdown in order to make lay-offs.”

 

The County Executive acknowledges that his approach to negotiations has been “tough” because it had to be. “Before I took office, 100 percent of County employee benefits were paid by taxpayers. We’ve moved to a much better balance, with new and current employees paying 10 to 15 percent. It’s a fair share.”

 

When asked about mistakes he’d made while in office, Bramson said he’s learned from his. “One of the most heated controversies during my time on the City Council concerned the proposed IKEA project in New Rochelle. In retrospect, we might have fostered a more constructive and less contentious debate by reaching out more fully on a regional basis and determining our planning goals with greater clarity. We applied those lessons successfully through our David’s Island Task Force, which managed to shape a vision for the Island without the angry divisions that have often characterized prior discussions on this subject.”

 

Astorino’s response to the question of his mistakes was: “No good deed goes unpunished.” He continued, “I’ve confronted all the issues before the County head on. Many would have preferred that I hadn’t and that we’d just gone along with higher and higher tax increases, but that’s not what the voters asked me to do.”

 

With everything that you know about candidates for political office, but we learned two things voters may not already know about these two.

 

Noam Bramson is a foodie. “I am a little obsessed with food, and it is my one luxury. I’ll skimp on wardrobe, household furnishings, and just about everything else, but am always happy to treat myself, my family, and friends to a great meal (or, at least, happy to do so when there is time). During the campaign, I’ve even been keeping a food blog of the new meals I’ve been trying across the County (http://www.noambramson.org/food/).”

 

Rob Astorino is a huge sports fan who likes airing his views — as an anchor for “Talk of Our Town” on the MSG Network. He helped launch ESPN Radio in New York. He and his family participate in the Guiding Eyes program, taking in puppies that will either be promoted for service or adopted as a loving family pet.

 

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